Bringing European music to schools

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In 1992 we lived and worked in Dorset. A beautiful county where I was Deputy Head of Lytchett Minster School. 

Two of my colleagues were language teachers and together, we decided to create a European fortnight of theatre, music and food to celebrate the Union. Most of the staff and students got involved, and we produced several Spanish and French plays, held three concerts and hosted a Brazilian/Portuguese dance group who happened to be visiting Bournemouth.

I vividly remember going to ask our Headteacher if I could have £50 to pay for a Breton folk band to come to Lytchett Minster. We were the only school who made that fortnight so exciting. Our great Music Director Jean (RIP) didn’t just conduct European music in our hall, but also gave a concert in the Poole Lighthouse. As for the refreshments, Donna and her A Level class created a menu fit for Paris, Rome or Madrid. 

In 1995, I went for a Headship post in the Cotswolds and to my surprise I got the job, and in 2000 we decided to become a Language Specialist College with Labour giving education their top priority. We didn’t do anything by half. We had to raise £100,000 to receive £500,000. I knew we couldn’t ask our parents, but also knew that the area had many wealthy residents.

 We were lucky to have three Cotswold newspapers to ensure people knew about our four outstanding Ofsted inspection results, our fabulous staff, our 30 acre playing fields and new buildings. As a rare, youngish female head, I used my black shiny shoes, my smartest suit, and pink lipstick to ask for an interview with many kind people. It worked.

One of our Governors had great connections and introduced me to an ex Ambassador, an amazing man who shall be nameless, several farmers and many more. With all these generous people, we reached our goal. 

From a school with 500 pupils and 27 sixth formers, I left 17 years later with 250 sixth formers and 1250 pupils.

I retired from teaching in 2012, kept busy as an educational consultant, a tutor, a jazz musician, volunteer speaker for 3 National Trust houses and gardens, and travelled across Europe and its near neighbours including Istanbul, Finland, Morocco, Sicily, and most of the EU 27.

In 2016 we were in St Petersburg when we postal voted in the referendum. At 10am on the 24th of June a friend texted to give us the terrible news. We wept, as did our Russian multilingual guide. 

In 2017 I began to get involved with Remain as did my colleague Ginie of Cheltenham 4E, my S4E home group, and my Chipping Norton group, Witney and Banbury. We did all the marches, twice weekly street stalls, fortnightly visits to SODEM and events meeting MPs Anna Soubry, Dominic Grieve and many more. 

When Boris Johnson became prime minister from just 92,153 Tory voters, his shocking visit in October 2019 to The Wirral (where I was born) was to destroy the chance of remaining. He lied about the Northern Ireland Alliance and quickly Libdem Jo Swinson [SF1] handed him the 2019 General Election on a plate. 

More from Central Bylines

Since then, we had hopes something might change but on 31/01/2020 we started a year of transition and sadness.

And getting music from Europe is much harder now. Boris Johnson’s promises to get get visas for musicians to tour across the Channel have been dashed by Oliver Dowden the Culture Secretary, whose claims that British musicians can still do some visa-free touring in 17 EU member states have been called misleading by the NME.

European Movement UK has accused the government of misleading the public on this issue at least 5 times, saying ‘Boris Johnson’s claim that he is going to resolve the Brexit crisis for musicians has been revealed as a sham’ in an email to members on May 15 2021 from Sam Murray, a Musician’s Union member.

The UK could have made an agreement. Many non-EU members have agreements. Football teams can move it seems, but our musicians cannot because of the costs and red tape.

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